If you’re missioning around Northland any time soon, put Matapouri on your map. Follow the road northeast of Whangarei for 26km and you’ll come to the cute village of Ngunguru. Keep going for a kilometre and you’ll reach Tutukaka with its busy marina, slews of dive crews and game-fishing boats.
From Tutukaka the road heads slightly inland and 10km later you reach the golden sands of Matapouri – home to Otito Reserve.
In the south, glacial waters, swing bridges and beech forests provide a stunning setting for a mermaid’s romp. On the scenic road over Haast Pass – the southern gateway to the West Coast – you’ll find the Blue Pools.
There are a number of short walks along this stunning route with one of the best, the Blue Pools Walk, just north of Makarora in the World Heritage listed Mount Aspiring National Park.
The walk is world-renowned and a must-see highlight of any south island adventure. Well maintained gravel paths and boardwalks lead through native silver beech forest to a swing bridge high above the Makarora River, where more than the occasional teenager has been known to bomb into the icy cold water.
The track continues into the forest to a series of sparkling pools that have been sculpted by centuries of erosion. The glacier-fed water in these deep pools is deep azure blue and clear to the bottom – keep your eyes out for brown trout! The walk to the pools is only 20 minutes, leaving plenty of time for a swim or you can follow the track along the river for a couple of hours.